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Retailers drop European pork in hepatitis E scare

Aug 26,2017
Major discount chains in Korea suspended the sale of pork from Europe after authorities found traces of the hepatitis E virus. The scare hits Korea amid rising concerns over public safety due to the ongoing egg contamination scandal and controversy over the safety of Lilian sanitary pads.

Lotte Mart, one of the largest retailers in Korea, said on Friday that it has pulled products that contain pork from Germany and the Netherlands from its shelves.

“While none of the products sold at our stores were discovered to have the virus in them, we decided to suspend the sale of products that had German or Dutch pork as ingredients to relieve public concern,” said a spokesperson from Lotte Mart.

Earlier this week it was reported by local media in the U.K. that a British supermarket chain may have been selling sausages contaminated with the virus. Later in the week, Tesco, a British retailer, was named as the supermarket chain that may have sold such products, albeit unintentionally.

The sausages are reportedly made of ingredients from Germany and the Netherlands.

Emart and Homeplus, two other major retailers, also removed products made with Dutch or German pork from their shelves.

“We don’t sell any sausage products made of European pork,” said a spokesperson from Homeplus. “But one of the bacon products we sell made by local food companies partially contained Dutch pork so we removed that from the shelves.”

Chungjungone, the food division of Daesang Group, which produces the bacon product, announced that they have ceased production. “The company will restart the production of the products after changing the ingredient supplier regardless of the result of the inspection by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety,” the company said in the statement.

To prevent public anxiety, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety released a statement on Thursday and explained that the problematic sausages in Europe are uncooked products.

“The ministry will strengthen the inspections on uncooked ham and sausage imported from Europe,” said the ministry in the statement.

Products that contain pork - ham, sausage and bacon - sold by Korean retailers are cooked products. According to a person familiar with the matter, the hepatitis E virus dies when it’s heated for 5 minutes at 70 degrees Celcius (158 degree Fahrenheit).

“Ham, sausage and bacon sold at our stores comes fully cooked,” said the Homeplus spokesperson. “This means the concerned virus has already been killed in the manufacturing process.”

“But we decided to temporarily suspend sales to put the public at ease, given all the events that happened recently such as eggs and sanitary pads,” the spokesperson added. “We will just put them on standby until we have official statement by the government that they are completely safe to consume.”


BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]